Caesar's Civil War

one of the last politico-military conflicts in the Roman Republic before the establishment of the Roman Empire

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Caesar's Civil War
Part of the Roman civil wars
Map of the Ancient Rome at Caesar time (with conquests)-fr.svg
Map of the Roman Republic in the mid-1st century BC
Date10 January 49 BC17 March 45 BC
(4 years, 2 months and 1 week)
Result Caesarian victory
Caesarians (Populares) Pompeians (Optimates)
Commanders and leaders
Julius Caesar
Mark Antony
Gaius Scribonius Curio 
Publius Cornelius Sulla
Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus
Decimus Brutus Albinus
Gaius Trebonius
Gaius Fabius
Pompey Executed
Titus Labienus 
Metellus Scipio 
Cato of Utica 
Publius Attius Varus 
Domitius Ahenobarbus 
Marcus Bibulus Executed
Lucius Afranius 
Marcus Petreius 
King Juba of Numidia 
Gnaeus Pompeius 
Sextus Pompey
Marcus Junius Brutus
Early 49 BC: 10 legions[1] Early 49 BC: 15 legions[2]

Caesar's Civil War (49–45 BC) was one of the last politico-military conflicts of the Roman Republic before its reorganization into the Roman Empire. It began as a series of political and military confrontations, between Julius Caesar (100–44 BC), his political supporters (broadly known as Populares), and his legions, against the Optimates (or Boni), the politically conservative and socially traditionalist faction of the Roman Senate,[3] who were supported by Pompey (106–48 BC) and his legions.[4]

Prior to the war, Caesar had served for eight years in the Gallic Wars. He and Pompey had, along with Marcus Licinius Crassus, established the First Triumvirate, through which they shared power over Rome. Caesar soon emerged as a champion of the common people, and advocated a variety of reforms. The Senate, fearful of Caesar, reduced the number of legions he had,[5] then demanded that he relinquish command of his army. Caesar refused, and instead marched his army on Rome, which no Roman general was permitted to do by law. Pompey fled Rome and organized an army in the south of Italy to meet Caesar.

The war was a four-year-long politico-military struggle, fought in Italy, Illyria, Greece, Egypt, Africa, and Hispania. Pompey defeated Caesar in 48 BC at the Battle of Dyrrhachium, but was himself defeated much more decisively at the Battle of Pharsalus. The Optimates under Marcus Junius Brutus and Cicero surrendered after the battle, while others, including those under Cato the Younger and Metellus Scipio fought on. Pompey fled to Egypt and was killed upon arrival. Scipio was defeated in 46 BC at the Battle of Thapsus in North Africa. He and Cato committed suicide shortly after the battle. The following year, Caesar defeated the last of the Optimates under his former lieutenant Labienus in the Battle of Munda and became Dictator perpetuo (Dictator in perpetuity or Dictator for life) of Rome.[6] The changes to Roman government concomitant to the war mostly eliminated the political traditions of the Roman Republic (509–27 BC) and led to the Roman Empire (27 BC–AD 476).


Caesar's Civil War resulted from the long political subversion of the Roman Government's institutions, which began with the career of Tiberius Gracchus, continuing with the Marian reforms of the legions, the bloody dictatorship of Lucius Cornelius Sulla, and completed by the First Triumvirate over Rome. The political situation is discussed in depth in the ancient histories of Appian and Cassius Dio. It is also covered in the biographies of Plutarch. Julius Caesar's commentaries offer some political details but mainly narrate military manoeuvres of the civil war itself.

The First Triumvirate (so denominated by Cicero), comprising Julius Caesar, Crassus and Pompey, ascended to power with Caesar's election as consul in 59 BC. The First Triumvirate was an unofficial political alliance, the substance of which was Pompey's military might, Caesar's political influence and Crassus's money. The alliance was further consolidated by Pompey's marriage to Julia, the daughter of Caesar, in 59 BC. At the conclusion of Caesar's first consulship, the Senate, rather than granting him a provincial governorship, tasked him with watching over the Roman forests. Specially created by his Senate enemies, that position was meant to occupy him without giving him the command of armies or garnering him wealth and fame.

Caesar, with the help of Pompey and Crassus, evaded the Senate's decrees by legislation passed through the popular assemblies. The acts promoted Caesar to Roman governor of Illyricum and Cisalpine Gaul; Transalpine Gaul (southern France) was added later. The various governorships gave Caesar command of an army of (initially) four legions. The term of his proconsulship, which allowed him immunity from prosecution, was set at five years, rather than the customary one year. His term was later extended for another five years. During the ten years, Caesar used his military forces to conquer Gaul and to invade Britain, which was popular with the people, however his enemies claimed it was without explicit authorization by the Senate.[5]

Roman world in 56 BC, when Caesar, Crassus and Pompey meet at Luca for a conference in which they decided to add another five years to the proconsulship of Caesar in Gaul and to give the province of Syria to Crassus and both Spanish provinces and Africa to Pompey.

In 52 BC, at the end of the First Triumvirate, the Roman Senate supported Pompey as sole consul; meanwhile, Caesar had become a military hero and champion of the people. Knowing that he hoped to become consul when his governorship expired, the Senate, politically fearful of him, ordered him to resign his command of his army. In December of 50 BC, Caesar wrote to the Senate that he agreed to resign his military command if Pompey followed suit. Offended, the Senate demanded for him to disband his army immediately, or he would be declared an enemy of the people. That was an illegal political act since he was entitled to keep his army until his term expired.

A secondary reason for Caesar's immediate desire for another consulship was that Caesar's 'imperium' or safety from prosecution was set to expire and his enemies in Rome had senatorial prosecutions awaiting him upon retirement as governor of Illyricum and Gaul. The potential prosecutions were clamored by his enemies for alleged irregularities that occurred in his consulship and war crimes claimed to have been committed during his Gallic campaigns. Moreover, Caesar loyalists, the tribunes Mark Antony and Quintus Cassius Longinus, vetoed the bill and were quickly expelled from the Senate. They then joined Caesar, who had assembled his army, which he asked for military support against the Senate. Agreeing, his army called for action.

In 50 BC, at the expiry of his proconsular term, the Pompey-led Senate ordered Caesar's return to Rome and the disbanding of his army and forbade his standing for election in absentia for a second consulship. That made Caesar think that he would be prosecuted and rendered politically marginal if he entered Rome without consular immunity or his army. To wit, Pompey accused him of insubordination and treason.

Civil War

Crossing the Rubicon

Julius Caesar pausing on the banks of the Rubicon

In January, 49 BC, Caesar's opponents in the Senate, led by Lentulus, Cato and Scipio, tried to strip Caesar of his command (provinces and legions) and force him to return to Rome as a private citizen (liable to prosecution). Caesar's allies in the Senate, especially Mark Anthony, Curio, Cassius and Caelius Rufus, tried to defend their patron, but were threatened with violence. On 7 January the Senate passed the consultum ultimum (declaring a state of emergency) and charged the consuls, praetors, tribunes and proconsuls with the defence of the state. That night Anthony, Cassius, Curio and Caelius Rufus fled from Rome and headed north to join Caesar.[7]

On January 10, 49 BC, commanding the Legio XIII, Caesar crossed the Rubicon River, the boundary between the province of Cisalpine Gaul to the north and Italy proper to the south. As crossing the Rubicon with an army was prohibited, lest a returning general attempt a coup d'etat, that triggered the ensuing civil war between Caesar and Pompey.

The general population, which regarded Caesar as a hero, approved of his actions. The historical records differ about the decisive comment that Caesar made on crossing the Rubicon: one report is Alea iacta est (usually translated as "The die is cast").

Caesar's own account of the Civil War makes no mention of the river crossing but simply states that he marched to Rimini, a town south of the Rubicon, with his army.[8]

March on Rome and the early Hispanian campaign

Column of Julius Caesar, where he addressed his army to march on Rome and start the Civil War, Rimini, Italy

Within a week of passing the consultum ultimum (declaring a state of emergency and outlawing Caesar) news reached Rome that Caesar had crossed the Rubicon (10 January) and had taken the Italian town of Ariminum (12 January).[9] By January 17 Caesar had taken the next three towns along the Flaminian Way, and that Marcus Anthonius (Mark Anthony) had taken Arretium and controlled the Cassian Way.[9] The Senate, not knowing that Caesar possessed only a single legion, feared the worst and supported Pompey, who declared that Rome could not be defended. He escaped to Capua with those politicians who supported him, the aristocratic Optimates and the regnant consuls. Cicero later characterised Pompey's "outward sign of weakness" as allowing Caesar's consolidation of power.

Despite having retreated into central Italy, Pompey and the Senatorial forces actually vastly outnumbered Caesar's single legion, and were composed of at least 100 cohorts, or 10 legions.[10] These included 5 cohorts at Iguvium under Thermus, 10 cohorts under Lentulus Spinther, 6 cohorts under Lucilius Hirrus garrisoning Camerinum, 2 legions of Marsi and Peligni drawn from garrisons at Alba and the surrounding districts that were commanded by Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, 9 further cohorts under praetors L. Manlius and Rutilius Lupus and 5 other legions. Cicero wrote[11] that from the outset Pompey had planned to abandon Rome. As Caesar progressed southwards, Pompey retreated towards Brundisium, initially ordering Domitius (engaged in raising troops in Etruria) to stop Caesar's movement on Rome from the direction of the Adriatic seaboard.

Belatedly, Pompey requested Domitius to retreat south to rendezvous with Pompey's forces. Domitius ignored Pompey's request believing he outnumbered Caesar three to one. Caesar, however, had been reinforced by two more legions from Gaul (the eighth and the twelfth) and twenty-two cohorts of recruits (recruited by Curio) and in fact outnumbered Domitius five to three. Domitius after being isolated and trapped near Corfinium, was forced to surrender his army of thirty-one cohorts (about three legions) following a brief siege. With deliberate clemency, Caesar released Domitius and the other senators with him and even returned 6,000,000 sesterces that Domitius had had to pay his troops. The thirty-one cohorts, however, were made to swear a new oath of allegiance to Caesar and were eventually sent to Sicily under the command of Asinius Pollio.[12] Caesar now had three veteran legions and fifty-three cohorts of recruits at Corfinium. The Caesarian army in Italy now outnumbered the republicans (8:5) and Pompey knew the peninsula was lost for the time being.

Pompey escaped to Brundisium, there awaiting sea transport for his legions, to Epirus, in the Republic's eastern Greek provinces, expecting his influence to yield money and armies for a maritime blockade of Italy proper. Meanwhile, the aristocrats, including Metellus Scipio and Cato the Younger, joined Pompey there and left a rear guard at Capua.

Caesar pursued Pompey to Brundisium, expecting restoration of their alliance of ten years earlier. Throughout the Great Roman Civil War's early stages, Caesar frequently proposed to Pompey for both generals to sheathe their swords. Pompey refused, legalistically arguing that Caesar was his subordinate and so was obligated to cease campaigning and dismiss his armies before any negotiation. As the Senate's chosen commander and with the backing of at least one of the current consuls, Pompey commanded legitimacy, but Caesar's military crossing of the Rubicon rendered him a de jure enemy of the Senate and the people of Rome. Caesar then tried to trap Pompey in Brundisium by blocking up the harbour mouth with earth moles from either side, joined across the deepest part by a string of rafts, each nine metres square, covered with a causeway of earth and protected with screens and towers. Pompey countered by constructing towers for heavy artillery on a number of merchant ships and used them to destroy the rafts as they were floated in position. Eventually, in March 49 BC, Pompey escaped and fled by sea to Epirus, leaving Caesar in complete command of Italy.[13]

Taking advantage of Pompey's absence from the Italian mainland, Caesar marched west to Hispania. Onroute he started the Siege of Massilia. Within 27 days after setting out he arrived on the Iberian peninsula. At Ilerda he defeated the politically leaderless Pompeian army, commanded by the legates Lucius Afranius and Marcus Petreius. Afterwards pacifying Roman Hispania.

Returning to Rome in December of 49 BC, Caesar was appointed dictator, with Mark Antony as his Master of the Horse. Caesar kept his dictatorship for eleven days, a tenure sufficient to win him a second term as consul with Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus as his colleague. Afterwards, Caesar renewed his pursuit of Pompey in Greece.

Greek, Illyrian and African campaigns

From Brundisium, Caesar crossed the Strait of Otranto with seven legions to the Gulf of Valona (not Palaesta in Epirus [modern Palase/Dhermi, Albania], as reported by Lucan),[14] prompting Pompey to consider three courses of action: (i) to make an alliance with the King of Parthia, an erstwhile ally, far to the east; (ii) to invade Italy with his superior navy and/or (iii) to force a decisive battle with Caesar. A Parthian alliance was not feasible since a Roman general fighting Roman legions with foreign troops was craven, and the military risk of an Italian invasion was politically unsavoury because the Italians, who thirty years earlier had rebelled against Rome, might rise against him. Thus, on the advice of his councillors, Pompey decided to engineer a decisive battle.

As it turned out, Pompey would have been obliged to take the third option anyway, as Caesar had forced his hand by pursuing him to Illyria and so on 10 July 48 BC, the two fought in the Battle of Dyrrhachium. With a loss of 1,000 veteran legionaries, Caesar was forced to retreat southwards. Refusing to believe that his army had bested Caesar's legions, Pompey misinterpreted the retreat as a feint into a trap and so did not give chase to deliver the decisive coup de grâce, thus losing the initiative and his chance to conclude the war quickly. Near Pharsalus, Caesar pitched a strategic bivouac. Pompey attacked but, despite his much larger army, was conclusively defeated by Caesar's troops. A major reason for Pompey's defeat was miscommunication among front cavalry horsemen.

Egyptian dynastic struggle

Pompey fled to Ptolemaic Egypt, where he was murdered by an officer of King Ptolemy XIII. Caesar pursued the Pompeian army to Alexandria, where he camped and became involved with the Alexandrine Civil War between Ptolemy and his sister, wife and co-regent, Cleopatra VII. Perhaps as a result of Ptolemy's role in Pompey's murder, Caesar sided with Cleopatra and is reported to have wept at the sight of Pompey's head, which was offered to him by Ptolemy's chamberlain, Pothinus, as a gift.

In any event, Caesar was besieged at Alexandria and after Mithridates relieved the city, Caesar defeated Ptolemy's army and installed Cleopatra as ruler with whom he fathered his only known biological son, Ptolemy XV Caesar, better known as "Caesarion". Caesar and Cleopatra never married because Roman law prohibited a marriage with a non-Roman citizen.

War against Pharnaces

After spending the first months of 47 BC in Egypt, Caesar went to Syria and then to Pontus to deal with Pharnaces II, Pompey's client king who had taken advantage of the civil war to attack the Roman-friendly Deiotarus and to make himself the ruler of Colchis and lesser Armenia. At Nicopolis Pharnaces had defeated what little Roman opposition the governor of Asia, Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus, could muster. He had also taken the city of Amisus, which was a Roman ally; made all the boys eunuchs and sold the inhabitants to slave traders. After the show of strength, Pharnaces drew back to pacify his new conquests.

Nevertheless, the extremely-rapid approach of Caesar in person forced Pharnaces to turn his attention back to the Romans. At first, recognising the threat, he made offers of submission with the sole object of gaining time until Caesar's attention fell elsewhere. It was to no avail since Caesar quickly routed Pharnaces at the Battle of Zela (modern Zile in Turkey) with just a small detachment of cavalry. Caesar's victory was so swift and complete that in a letter to a friend in Rome, he famously said of the short war, "Veni, vidi, vici" ("I came, I saw, I conquered"). Indeed, for his Pontic triumph, that may well have been the label displayed above the spoils.

Pharnaces himself fled quickly back to the Bosporus, where he managed to assemble a small force of Scythian and Sarmatian troops with which he was able to gain control of a few cities, but one of his former governors, Asandar, attacked his forces and killed him. The historian Appian states that Pharnaces died in battle, but Cassius Dio says that Pharnaces was captured and then killed.

Later campaign in Africa and the war on Cato

While Caesar had been in Egypt and installed Cleopatra as sole ruler, four of his veteran legions encamped, under the command of Mark Antony. The legions were waiting for their discharges and the bonus pay that Caesar had promised them before the Battle of Pharsalus. As Caesar lingered in Egypt, the situation quickly deteriorated. Antony lost control of the troops, who began looting estates south of the capital. Several delegations of diplomats were dispatched to try to quell the mutiny.

Nothing worked, and the mutineers continued to call for their discharges and back pay. After several months, Caesar finally arrived to address the legions in person. Caesar knew that he needed the legions to deal with Pompey's supporters in North Africa since the latter had mustered 14 legions. Caesar also knew that he did not have the funds to give the soldiers their back pay, much less the money needed to induce them to re-enlist for the North African campaign.

When Caesar approached the speaker's dais, a hush fell over the mutinous soldiers. Most were embarrassed by their role in the mutiny in Caesar's presence. He asked the troops what they wanted with his cold voice. Ashamed to demand money, the men began to call out for their discharge. Caesar bluntly addressed them as "citizens", instead of "soldiers," a tacit indication that they had already discharged themselves by virtue of their disloyalty.

He went on to tell them that they would all be discharged immediately. He said that he would pay them the money that he owed them after he won the North African campaign with other legions. The soldiers were shocked since they had been through 15 years of war with Caesar and they had become fiercely loyal to him in the process. It had never occurred to them that Caesar did not need them.

The soldiers' resistance collapsed. They crowded the dais and begged to be taken to North Africa. Caesar feigned indignation and then allowed himself to be won over. When he announced that he would allow them to join the campaign, a huge cheer arose from the assembled troops. Through that reverse psychology, Caesar re-enlisted four enthusiastic veteran legions to invade North Africa without spending a single sesterce.

Caeser ordered twelve legions to gather in Lilybaeum on Sicily around late December. He placed a minor member of the Scipio family at the front of his army because of the myth that no Scipio could be defeated in Africa. The four veteran legions which had been involved in the mutiny were still in Campagnia, but six were ready in Lilybaeum. A storm had scattered his transports and as a result he arrived with just 3000 infantry and 150 cavalry. He tried to take Hadrumetum, but was forced to retreat to Ruspina because a large force of Optimates' cavalry arrived. Caesar took the harbour city of Leptis where he was joined by some of his scattered troops. A few days later new reinforcements arrived and with these he went on to the offensive. A few miles from Ruspina he fought the inconclusive Battle of Ruspina. Caesar withdrew to Ruspina, improved its defences and waited for more of his troops to arrive. Meanwhile, the Optimates were gathering their forces near Hadrumetum to the north of Ruspina. Eventually, the XIII and XIV legions arrived. With these reinforcements Caesar went on the offensive. He defeated the Optimates' Gallic and Germanic auxiliary cavalry in a skirmish near Ruspina. In response the Optimates called on king Juba I of Numidia to join them with his army. Caesar kept the initiative by marching on Uzitta, a major water source for the Optimates, and tried to force his enemy to do battle. Two more veteran legions, the IX and X, arrived bolstering his numbers. The Optimates refused to do battle on Caesar's terms so he retreated back to Ruspina. Two more legions, the VII and VIII, arrived bringing up his numbers to twelve legions. Supply problems forced Caesar to march his entire army south-west to forage. The Optimates shadowed him with their army using their superior cavalry numbers to harass Caesar while foraging. Caesar marched to and started to be besiege Thapsus trying to lure the Optimates into fighting a pitched battle. The plan worked and Caesar quickly gained a significant victory at the Battle of Thapsus in 46 BC over the forces of Metellus Scipio, Cato the Younger and Juba, who all committed suicide.

Second Hispanian campaign and end of war

Nevertheless, Pompey's sons; Gnaeus Pompeius and Sextus Pompeius, together with Titus Labienus, Caesar's former propraetorian legate (legatus propraetore and second in command in the Gallic War) and Attius Varus, escaped to Hispania. In Baetica, where most people were still adherents of Pompey, they started building an army. In a few months time they were able to raise an army of several thousands of light infantry and cavalry, and more importantly four Roman legions. These two legions which had defected from the governor of Hispanica Ulterior, Gaius Trebonius, a legion formed from the survivors of Thapsus, and an additional legion recruited from Roman citizens and local inhabitants. They took control of almost all Hispania Ulterior, including the important Roman colonies of Italica and Corduba (the capital of the province). Caesar sent two generals Quintus Fabius Maximus and Quintus Pedius with four legions to take care of the Pompeians, but because of the size of their opponents army they did not risk a battle and remained encamped at Obulco (present-day Porcuna), about 35 miles (56 km) east of Corduba, requesting help from Caesar.

Caesar's campaign to Munda

Thus, Caesar was forced to move from Rome to Hispania to deal with the Pompeius brothers. He brought three trusted veteran legions (X Equestris, V Alaudae and VI Ferrata)[15]and one of the newer legions III Gallica, but in the main he was forced to rely on the recruits already present in Hispania. Caesar covered the 1,500 miles (2,400 km) from Rome to Obulco in less than one month, arriving in early December (he immediately wrote a short poem, Iter, describing this journey). Caesar had called for his great-nephew Octavian to join him, but due to his health Octavian was only able to reach him after the conclusion of the campaign.


When Caesar arrived in Baetica the Pompeians were laying siege to Ulia (one of the few towns which had remained loyal to Caesar). Lucius Vibius Paciaecus, one of his officers who was known to the Ulians and knew the area, was sent with six cohorts (2,000-3,000 legionaries) to reinforce the defenders. Caesar himself marched his main army on Corduba hoping to draw the Pompeians from Ulia. Paciaecus arrived near Ulia during the night just when a storm swept in. Using the darkness and the rain Paciaecus marched his men through the Pompeian lines, the sentries, unable to recognize the legionary symbols, let them pass. Paciaecus slipped his men into the city reinforcing the defenders.


While Ulia was being reinforced Caesar marched on towards Corduba which was defended by Sextus Pompeius and a strong garrison. Onroute Caesar's vanguard clashed with Sextus' cavalry alerting the Pompeians to his presents. Sextus sent word to his brother that Caesar was near Corduba and requested reinforcements. Gnaeus gave up the siege of Ulia and marched to his brother's aid with the entire Pompeian army. Sextus had blocked or destroyed the bridge to Corduba across the Baetis. Caesar constructing a makeshift bridge and marched his army across setting up camp near Corduba. Soon Gnaeus and Labienus arrived with the Pompeian army. Fierce skirmishes were fought on the bridge, both sides losing many men. Caesar was looking for a decisive engagement and this was not going to be it. So during one night Caesar's army lit a great number of campfires to create the impression they were still in camp, slipped out, and after a daring river crossing, marched on Ategua.


After arriving at the fortified city of Ategua Caesar began besieging it, building several camps around it. Gnaeus and Labienus marched their army around Caesar's positions hoping to surprise him coming in from an unexpected direction. They approached under the cover of a thick fog surprising a number of Caesar's pickets. When the fog lifted it became clear Caesar had taken all the highground around the city and was entrenched very well. Building a camp to the west (between Caesar and Ucubi) they tried to come up with a plan to dislodge their opponent from his superior position. They launched an attack on the camp of Postumius and the XXVIII, but were repulsed when Caesar sent the V, VI and X to aid their comrades. The following day Caesar was reinforced by his allies, most notably king Bogud of West-Mauretania. Under Labienus’ advice, Gnaeus Pompeius decided to avoid an open battle, and Caesar was forced to wage a winter campaign, while procuring food and shelter for his army. In early 45 BC the pro-Caesarian faction in Ategua offered to surrender the city to Caesar, but when the Pompeian garrison found out they executed the pro-Caesarian leaders. The garrison tried to fight their way through Caesar's lines some time after the incident, but were beaten back. The city surrendered soon after; this was an important blow to the Pompeian confidence and morale, and some of the native allies started to desert to Caesar.

Salsum and Soricaria

After taking Ategua Caesar started building a camp near the Pompeian camp across the River Salsum. Gnaeus attacked quickly catching Caesar of guard. The heroic actions and sacrifice of two centurions of the V stabilized the line. After this setback Caesar decided to retreat to Sorecaria cutting of one of the Pompeian supply lines. Another skirmish near Soricaria on March 7 went in Caesar's favor; many Romans in the Pompeian camp began planning to defect and Gnaeus Pompeius was forced to abandon his delaying tactics and offer battle. He broke camp and marched his army south towards the town of Munda.


Caesar gave chase and on the 17th of March 45 BC the two armies met on the plains of Munda. The Pompeian army was situated on a gentle hill, less than one mile (1.6 km) from the walls of Munda, in a defensible position. Caesar led a total of eight legions (Legio II, III, V, VI, X, XXI, XXVIII and XXX), with 8,000 horsemen and an unknown number of light infantry, while Gnaeus commanded thirteen legions, 6,000 light-infantrymen, and about 6,000 horsemen. Many of the Republican soldiers had already surrendered to Caesar in previous campaigns and had then deserted his army to rejoin Pompeius: they would fight with desperation, fearing that they would not be pardoned a second time (indeed Caesar had executed prisoners at his last major victory, at Thapsus). After an unsuccessful ploy designed to lure the Pompeians down the hill, Caesar ordered a frontal attack (with the watchword "Venus", the goddess reputed to be his ancestor).

The fighting lasted for 8 hours without a clear advantage for either side, causing the generals to leave their commanding positions and join the ranks. As Caesar himself later said he had fought many times for victory, but at Munda he had to fight for his life.[16] Caesar took command of his right wing, where his favorite Legio X Equestris was involved in heavy fighting. With Caesar's inspiration the tenth legion began to push back Pompeius' forces. Aware of the danger, Gnaeus removed a legion from his own right wing to reinforce the threatened left wing, which was a critical mistake.[17] As soon as the Pompeian right wing was thus weakened, Caesar's cavalry launched a decisive attack which turned the course of the battle. King Bogud and his Mauretanian cavalry attacked the Pompeian right breaking through the flank and attacking the rear of the Pompeian army. Titus Labienus, commander of the Pompeian cavalry, saw this manoeuvre and moved some troops to intercept them.

The Pompeian army misinterpreted the situation. Already under heavy pressure on both the left (from Legio X) and right wings (the cavalry charge), they thought Labienus was retreating.[18] The Pompeian legions broke their lines and fled in disorder. Although some were able to find refuge within the walls of Munda, many more were killed in the rout. At the end of the battle there were about 30,000 Pompeians dead on the field;[19] losses on Caesar's side were much lighter, only about 1,000.[20] All thirteen standards of the Pompeian legions were captured, a sign of complete disbandment. Titus Labienus and Attius Varus died on the field and were granted a burial by Caesar, while Gnaeus Pompeius managed to escape from the battlefield.

Meanwhile, Caesar had been elected to his third and fourth terms as consul in 46 BC (with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus) and 45 BC (sine collega, without a colleague).



Caesar was later proclaimed dictator first for ten years and then in perpetuity. The latter arrangement triggered the conspiracy leading to his assassination on the Ides of March in 44 BC. Following this, Antony and Caesar's adopted son Octavius would fight yet another civil war against remnants of the Optimates and Liberatores faction, ultimately resulting in the establishment of the Roman Empire.


  1. ^ Brunt 1971, p. 474.
  2. ^ Brunt 1971, p. 473.
  3. ^ "Ancient Roman History: Optimates".
  4. ^ Kohn, G.C. Dictionary of Wars (1986) p. 374
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ Hornblower, S., Spawforth, A. (eds.) The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization (1998) pp. 219–24
  7. ^ Leach, John. Pompey the Great, pp 170–172.
  8. ^ "C. Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Civil War, CAESar's COMMENTARIES OF THE CIVIL WAR. , chapter 8".
  9. ^ a b Leach, John. Pompey the Great, p. 174.
  10. ^ Commentarii de Bello Civili, Caesar
  11. ^ "M. Tullius Cicero, Letters, B.C. 49. Coss., C. Claudius, Marcellus, L. Cornelius Lentulus Crus".
  12. ^ John Leach, Pompey the Great, p.183
  13. ^ John Leach, Pompey the Great, p.185
  14. ^ Longhurst (2016) "Caesar's Crossing of the Adriatic Countered by a Winter Blockade During the Roman Civil War" The Mariner's Mirror Vol. 102; 132–152
  15. ^ "Gaius Julius Caesar: Domestic policy - Livius".
  16. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 104
  17. ^ "Battle of Munda".
  18. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History . 43.38 "Labienus, observing this, left his station and proceeded against him. Pompey's men, then, supposing him to be in flight, lost heart; and though later, of course, they learned the truth, they could no longer recover themselves."
  19. ^ "In quo proelio ceciderunt milia hominum circiter XXX", De Bello Hispaniensi, 31 :"About 30.000 men fell in the battle"
  20. ^ "Nostri desiderati ad hominum mille partim peditum, partim equitum, saucii ad D", De Bello Hispaniensi, 31: "On our side we had about 1000 missing between infantry and cavalry, 500 wounded"
  21. ^ Caesar, Julius (1976). The civil war. Gardner, Jane F. Harmondsworth: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-044187-5. OCLC 3709815.


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